Long drives, Romanchak carry Freeport over Burrell
With the hopes of a sixth straight WPIAL playoff berth flickering, Freeport played ball control Friday, staging three offensive drives that resulted in two touchdowns and a 12-10 victory over Burrell.
After Burrell had taken a 10-0 lead, a 70-yard, 14-play drive put the Yellowjackets on the scoreboard with 4:50 left in the half to end a streak of nine consecutive scoreless quarters.
In the third quarter after a nine-yard Burrell punt, senior Mitchell O' Shell culminated a relatively short drive with a 15-yard scoring run to give Freeport the lead.
But the Yellowjackets virtually put the game away with an 18-play drive in the fourth quarter that ate up nine minutes. Freeport lost the ball on downs, but Andrew Romanchak intercepted a pass on Burrell's first play from scrimmage to secure the victory.
The win puts Freeport (2-4, 2-4) one game behind fourth place Summit Academy in the Allegheny Conference. The top four teams go to the Class AA playoffs.
Burrell (1-4, 2-4) still is mathematically alive in the playoff race with three weeks to go, but the Bucs will have to win their last three games and get some help with tiebreakers.
Romanchak played a great game on both sides of the ball, rushing for 111 yards and engineering the three key possessions before his pick-off with 2:37 left in the game.
“The team played a great game tonight; we had a lot of underclassmen step up,” Romanchak said after an emotional post game huddle on the field at James Swartz Memorial Stadium.
“Everybody just came together. We have two moms of teammates with breast cancer; we're all representing them. Everybody was up for the game.”
“Andrew's unbelievable,” said Yellowjackets coach John Gaillot. “Hard-nosed kid. A leader. He doesn't lead by voice, he leads by actions.”
Burrell's first possession of the game ended with a 35-yard field goal by Austin Hatbob.
Following a fumble recovery by Andrew Fisher, the Bucs drove 47 yards in seven plays, with Ryan Sowol bursting through the middle of the Freeport defense for a 24-yard scoring run.
“A few mistakes that we made kind of broke us,” said Burrell coach Kevin Horwatt, who became a father for the first time earlier Friday when daughter Riley was born.
“Overall, our kids played four tough quarters of football — sometimes things don't go your way,” Horwatt said.
The Bucs ran just 12 offensive plays in the second half, picking up one first down.
During the protracted fourth-quarter drive, four Burrell defenders sacked Romanchak at his 12.
But a defensive holding call against the Bucs enabled Freeport to get a first down on short yardage.
George Guido is a freelance writer.